There seem to be two schools of thought about using the Mac App Store to buy apps. On one hand, many Mac users have no problem with the store because the selection is broad, prices are decent, plus, purchase, installation, and updates are mostly painless. On the other hand, Apple places restrictions on app capabilities (which drives away experienced Mac users), and does not provide a try-before-you-buy option.
The question I have is simple. Why does Apple run the Mac App Store for app developers instead of for Mac customers?
The basics are there for a good shopping experience, but the detail, polish, follow-through, and experience are not. The Store is good for developers but less so for users. Here’s why.
First, search. It’s abysmal on the iTunes App Store and just as quirky on the Mac App Store. Click on the Photography category. Select See All. What you get are apps displayed by Name or by Release Date.
What customers truly want and need are search options for popularity (most downloads), ratings (stars), and multiple search criteria (ratings, date, price, etc.). Apple doesn’t provide such category search options. Type the word ‘photography’ into the Mac App Store search field and more sort options are available, including Relevance, Most Popular, Release Date, and Customer Rating. But search criteria cannot be mixed.
This type of search display favors exposure to new apps vs. popular or highest rated apps. Why? Obviously, Apple wants Mac users to explore the Mac App Store and not buy or download only those apps with the highest ratings.
Second, standards. The information displayed on the Mac App Store about an app is convoluted at best. Screenshots often are cluttered with boxes, arrows, and advertising text. Many Mac apps which are priced at more than $3.99 do not have a trial version (smart developers provide a free but limited feature version to try; most do not). Who wants to plunk down $49.99 for an app without a trial option? Links to app developer’s websites often are nothing more than a Facebook or Twitter page or an expired domain.
For all the curated apps in the Mac App Store, quality control over the customer’s actual shopping experience appear to be overlooked as Apple prefers to court developers vs. customers.
Finally, I understand Apple’s desire to curate and ‘sandbox‘ Mac applications for security, but sandboxing also reduces higher functionality for more experienced Mac users. What I want to see in the Mac App Store are better search capability with multiple search criteria, a mandatory trial version functionality (one week should be sufficient for any app), improved curation of screenshots and app developer support links.
Why doesn’t Apple implement those three right away? Because the Mac App Store isn’t there for the shopper and customer as much as it is for the developers to help Apple grow the Mac brand.